Category Archives: Featured Blog

Old-growth forests may shelter pockets of biodiversity after severe fires

A northern spotted owl perches on a tree limb.

CORVALLIS, Ore. (July 2, 2019) New findings show that old-growth forests, a critical nesting habitat for threatened northern spotted owls, are less likely to experience high-severity fire than young-growth forests during wildfires.

This suggests that old-growth forest could be leveraged to provide valuable fire refuges that support forest biodiversity and buffer the extreme effects of climate change on fire regimes in the Pacific Northwest.

A recent study published in the journal Ecosphere examined the impact of the Douglas Complex and Big Windy fires, which burned in the Klamath-Siskiyou region of Oregon during July 2013, a drought year.

The fires burned through a long-term study area for northern spotted owls.

Using information on forest vegetation before and after the fires, along with known spotted owl nesting areas, researchers had an unprecedented chance to compare the impact of wildfire on critical old-growth nesting habitat.

“On federally managed lands, spotted owl nesting habitat is largely protected from timber harvest under the Northwest Forest Plan, but wildfire is still a primary threat to the old-growth forest that spotted owls rely on for nesting habitat,” Damon Lesmeister, a research wildlife biologist for the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, said. “The loss of spotted owl nesting habitat as a result of severe fire damage could have significant negative impacts on the remaining spotted owl populations as well as a large number of other wildlife species that rely on these old forests.”

Old-growth forests have more vegetation than younger forests. Researchers expected that this meant more fuel would be available for wildfires, increasing the susceptibility of old-growth forests to severe fire, high tree mortality, and resulting loss of critical spotted owl nesting habitat.

However, the data suggested a different effect.

Lesmeister and his colleagues classified fire severity based on the percentage of trees lost in a fire, considering forest that lost less than 20% of its trees to fire as subject to low-severity fire and those with more than 90% tree loss as subject to high-severity fire.

They found that old-growth forest was up to three times more likely to burn at low severity — a level that avoided loss of spotted owl nesting habitat and is generally considered to be part of a healthy forest ecosystem. 

“Somewhat to our surprise, we found that, compared to other forest types within the burned area, old-growth forests burned on average much cooler than younger forests, which were more likely to experience high-severity fire. How this actually plays out during a mixed-severity wildfire makes sense when you consider the qualities of old-growth forest that can limit severe wildfire ignitions and burn temperatures, like shading from multilayer canopies, cooler temperatures, moist air and soil as well as larger, hardier trees,” Lesmeister said.

Because old-growth forests may be refuges for low-severity fire on a landscape that experiences moderate to high-severity fires frequently, they could be integral as biodiversity refuges in an increasingly fire-prone region.

Leveraging the potential of old-growth forests to act as refuges may be an effective tool for forest managers as they deal with worsening fire seasons in the Pacific Northwest.

The study was a collaboration between researchers Damon Lesmeister and David Bell, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station; Stan Sovern and Matthew Gregory, Oregon State University; Raymond Davis, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region; and Jody Vogeler, Colorado State University. 


Source information: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station (press release). The research station – headquartered in Portland, Ore. – generates and communicates scientific knowledge to help people make informed choices about natural resources and the environment. The station has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and about 300 employees. Learn more at https://www.fs.usda.gov/pnw/

Forest Feature: Bigfoot

Someone you might see on the National Forest: Bigfoot/Sasquatch, pictured here. Sasquatches have been seen running away from a wildfire. Please be careful with fire when you are visiting their neighborhood.

It comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. It’s an animal today, but a plant the next? Few see it, but it sees all. It (allegedly) LOVES Nutella! It’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s the last of its kind, a true legend. That’s right, this month’s Forest Feature honors the Pacific Northwest’s most unique forest creature: BIGFOOT!

Lurking always just out of sight, our friendly 8-or-more-feet-tall, gentle giant of the Pacific Northwest has (reportedly) graced us with its presence for decades now.

Some say that its large stature belies an otherwise congenial attitude towards other forest-dwelling creatures.

However in times past and present, many have described a “wild man” or “hairy man” stealing food from unwary hikers.

Some anthropologists and dedicated Bigfoot-hunters have devoted their lives to revealing its secrets; but in true bigfoot-style, the creature remains largely unexposed. You won’t even find it posting on Instagram (although you may find many imposters posing for a Kodak moment).

Did you know?

  • Bigfoot, sometimes known as Sasquatch, is also rumored to be a shapeshifter
  • The highest number of Bigfoot sightings is in Clackamas County (Oregon), along Hwy 244.
  • The Blue Mountains is allegedly one of its favorite spots, and where parts of the 1995 film “Bigfoot: The Unforgettable Encounter” were filmed (the story is set in Shaver Lake, Calif. and in the Modoc National Forest, also in California).
  • The first motion picture footage (alleged to be) of the elusive, notoriously camera-shy creature is known as the Petterson-Gimlin film, filmed in 1967.

This month, we have no photos of Bigfoot to share… but we do have a coloring page depicting an artist’s conception of Bigfoot in its natural habitat, created by the Jimmye Turner, a USDA Forest Service fire prevention specialist on the Umatilla National Forest.

We also have a drawing activity to help students draw on their creativity, curiosity, and to inspire questions about the many adaptations animals have evolved to meet the challenges of their environment.

While some of you may not be Bigfoot believers, Bigfoot offers a wonderful opportunity to talk about fire prevention during the hottest month of the year, the unexplored and undiscovered aspects of our forest’s wild and wilderness areas, and the importance of preserving habitat before more species become scarce, and seemingly as difficult to find as Bigfoot has proved to be.

Both of these resources are fun for all ages, but are especially suited to students in early elementary school (grades K-4).

Gather stories about Bigfoot in your own communities, use its mystique to inspire stewardship of the forest!

Resources:

Someone you might see on the National Forest: Bigfoot/Sasquatch, pictured here. Sasquatches have been seen running away from a wildfire. Please be careful with fire when you are visiting their neighborhood.
A coloring page, featuring Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch). USDA Forest Service illustration by Jimmye Turner, Umpqua National Forest staff.

Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

Fire season safety tips for smoke-sensitive persons, drivers

Smoke blowing over a roadway nearly obscures USDA Forest Service wildland fire truck (WA-OWF E644) and a wildland firefighter from the camera's view.

While the “fire season” is off to a slower-than-normal start in many parts of the Pacific Northwest, fires like the Milepost 97 are here and ready to remind fire isn’t the only seasonal hazard to watch for. There are also two, other, closely related risks faced by our firefighters and our community during the season: smoke and motor vehicle traffic.

Even small fires can send a lot of smoke into nearby roadways. Sometimes, even smoke drift from distant fires can create enough haze to reduce visibility. That reduced visibility is a risk to pedestrians, other motorists (including those in or responding to disabled vehicles along the road shoulder), and even firefighters working nearby.

If you’re traveling in areas with nearby fire activity, be careful and use extra caution. In addition to reduced or poor visibility, you may encounter heavy equipment and firefighting trucks on the road. Drive carefully, slow down, and give plenty of space to firefighters and fire vehicles. Use extra caution when driving in smoke-filled conditions; debris, disabled vehicles and pedestrians may be concealed from view until you’re vehicle is just a few feet away.

Follow these tips to keep yourself and others, including firefighters and smoke-sensitive loved ones, safe!

  • If your travel plans require you to drive on routes that are impacted by fire or firefighting activity, consider alternate travel dates and/or routes.
  • If you must drive, pay close attention to road closures and warnings.
  • Be alert! Fire activity and subsequent operations can change quickly.  Adapt driving patterns accordingly and always yield to emergency responders.
  • Navigation applications on smart phones or other devices (GPS / maps) may not accurately reflect changing conditions. Watch out for changing local conditions and detours.
  • Plan ahead. If you live in a fire-prone area (which is all of us, in the Pacific Northwest!), keep your gas tank filled at least 3/4 full at all times. Maintain a clean air filter, and carry paper map or road atlas to assist you in travelling in areas with limited cell phone reception. Bring an extra cell phone charger (and battery back-up); make sure you have a spare tire and jack; and carry extra water, food, a first aid kit and a blanket in your vehicle at all times.
  • Remove unnecessary flammables from the vehicle, such as containers of gas and oil.
  • Stay calm and focus on driving tasks. Drivers should not be texting, taking photos or video footage, no matter what is unfolding around them!
  • Keep headlights “on” for safety when driving.
  • Keep vehicle windows closed when travelling through smoke, and close all exterior air vents; set air conditioning to the “recirculation” setting.
  • Smoke-filled air can also impact health at home, particularly for young children, the elderly, and for people with chronic heart or lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and COPD. If possible, maintain a “clean room” at home in which air can be filtered by an appropriately-sized filtration system; ideally, a True HEPA filter rated to remove 99.97% of particles of .3 microns or larger, paired with an activated charcoal filter to trap volatile organic compounds. (An air ionizer may also be helpful, but discuss your plans with a doctor as not everyone is a good candidate. Those with sensitive lungs should only run an ionizer while away from home to avoid breathing ionized particles, and people who are sensitive to ozone should not use ionizers).
  • Plan ahead! It’s important for everyone to have an emergency evacuation plan, but it is especially important for those with special needs, pets, or who do not have access to a motor vehicle to plan ahead. Find advice on emergency preparedness planning at RedCross.org and at Ready.gov.

Planning travel, and need the latest traffic, smoke and safety updates? These websites can help!

Why are bark beetles attracted to heat-stressed trees? Alcohol, new study says

Close-up image of a red turpentine beetle (Dendroctonus valens).

Foresters have long known that trees under stress from fire injury are vulnerable to bark beetle attacks. Now, Rick Kelsey and Doug Westlind, researchers with the Pacific Northwest Research Station, have developed a model that explains how physiological changes cause heat stress in woody tissues, even after exposure to less-than-lethal fire temperatures, and produce a chemical signal that attracts some bark beetles.

When heat disrupts normal cell functions, the tree produces ethanol as a short-term survival strategy.

And if enough ethanol accumulates, mixes with volatile organic compounds in the tree’s resin, and is released to the atmosphere, the combination has proved to be a strong attractant for red turpentine beetles.

A man in protective hat, vest inspects a tall, hanging series of cones.
Retired Forest Service scientist Rick Kelsey collects bark beetles captured in funnel traps following a prescribed fire in Oregon. Understanding the interplay between tree response to heat stress and certain insects can help forest managers design fuel-reduction treatments to achieve specific outcomes. USDA Forest Service photo.

Kelsey and Westlind showed that ethanol interacts synergistically with 3-carene, a dominant ponderosa pine resin monoterpene. In a trapping study, red turpentine beetles were more attracted to lures combining ethanol and 3-carene than lures with ethanol or 3-carene alone.

Understanding ecosystem responses to fire can help managers characterize forest health and plan for post-fire management.

The results also hold promise for developing simple ethanol detection methods for monitoring tree stress.

Real-time feedback on ethanol levels could help forest managers quickly assess which trees to cull after a fire, and which to leave in place.

Learn more in the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station’s Science Findings 217, at https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/58195.

Ethanol dissipation mechanisms: diffusion, sapflow, and metabolism with relative rates at ambient conditions. Ethanol is metabolized by alcohol dehydrogenase to acetaldehyde (Zanon et al. 2007), which is converted by aldehyde dehydrogenase to acetate, which is converted by acetyl-CoA synthase into acetyl-CoA (MacDonald and Kimmerer 1993, Gass et al. 2005). The latter can enter the tricarboxylic acid or glyoxylate cycles or be used to synthesize lipids depending on heat damage to membranes and enzymes. Ethanol dissipation mechanisms: diffusion, sapflow, and metabolism with relative rates at ambient conditions. Ethanol is metabolized by alcohol dehydrogenase to acetaldehyde (Zanon et al. 2007), which is converted by aldehyde dehydrogenase to acetate, which is converted by acetyl-CoA synthase into acetyl-CoA (MacDonald and Kimmerer 1993, Gass et al. 2005). The latter can enter the tricarboxylic acid or glyoxylate cycles or be used to synthesize lipids depending on heat damage to membranes and enzymes.
As ethanol accumulates in the tree, it immediately begins to dissipate via (1) diffusion, (2) sapflow, and (3) metabolism. Each process is affected differently by the heat-stress mechanism the tissues and whole tree experience. USDA Forest Service illustration (originally published at https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/5/443/3746565).

Source information: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station (Science Findings 217). The research station – headquartered in Portland, Ore. – generates and communicates scientific knowledge to help people make informed choices about natural resources and the environment. The station has 11 laboratories and centers located in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and about 300 employees. Learn more at https://www.fs.usda.gov/pnw/

After a century’s absence, migratory steelhead return to Beaver Creek

three migratory steelhead are pictured swimming in turbulent waters

LA GRANDE, Ore. (July 29, 2019) Earlier this summer, Tim Bailey and Winston Morton of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were looking for signs of spawning steelhead in the headwaters of Beaver Creek southwest of La Grande. 

They’d surveyed miles of the creek, tediously making their way over downed trees, rocks, and slippery stream banks while scanning the streambed. 

Then they found four redds, depressions in the river gravel made by fish to lay their eggs. 

This simple discovery represents a breakthrough for migratory steelhead, which had not been able to reach the headwaters of Beaver Creek for over 100 years.

A migratory steelhead leaps from the water in an effort to clear a rocky outcrop blocking it's passage upstream.
Human development that blocks migratory steelhead access to historical habitat, as well as poorly-designed passages that create strong currents can tire young fish expose them from predators, have resulted in several species being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Courtesy photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Migratory steelhead are amazing fish. After they are born and raised in cold freshwater streams, they will swim hundreds of miles to feed and grow in the ocean. Then they swim back to the stream of their birth to reproduce. 

For many thousands of years, steelhead followed this life cycle in the Grande Ronde River and its tributaries, including the headwaters of Beaver Creek.

That changed a century ago with the construction of the Beaver Creek Dam and four water diversions in the La Grande municipal watershed.

Steelhead and other migratory fish could no longer swim past the dam and diversions to reach the high-quality spawning and rearing habitat in upper Beaver Creek. 

A man looks out at a concrete weird under construction along a streambed.
A concrete weir under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Just two years after construction, fish biologists have found signs of migratory steelhead returning to the river for the first time in a century. Courtesy photo: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

To solve this problem, several local, state, and federal entities teamed up to implement the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project.

When the construction crew broke ground in June of 2017, the project had been in various stages of planning for 20 years.

Why did it take so long?

Designing a structure to provide fish passage up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam was a significant engineering challenge. The structure had to be low-maintenance and work without electricity; it also had to accommodate high flows in the spring as well as low flows later in the summer.

A series of precast concrete weirs is laid into the Beaver Creek streambed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

The City of La Grande worked with a local civil engineering firm, Anderson Perry & Associates, to evaluate several alternatives for a fish passage structure, and other project partners provided technical feedback.

They ultimately landed on a one-of-a-kind solution: a series of 59 precast concrete weirs (little dams). Each weir weighs 27,000 pounds and had to be constructed off site.

Stacked one-by-one along about 400 feet of the dam’s eastern spillway, the weirs create a staircase of resting pools that allow fish to jump & swim up and over the top of the dam.

To date, there are no other fishways like this in the Pacific Northwest.

Construction workers install a series of precast concrete weirs in a temporarily-drained stream bed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. The 2017 installation of 59 weirs provides a series of resting pools for fish to swim up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

Implementing the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project took a total of $1,125,700 and vital contributions from several partners:

  • The City of La Grande provided technical expertise, project funding, and grant administration.
  • Anderson Perry & Associates of La Grande provided engineering design and construction project management.
  • Lindley Contracting of Union constructed the project, including the fish passage structure, upgraded several intake structures, and replaced worn out utility infrastructure.
  • Grande Ronde Model Watershed facilitated project funding, including $150,000 from the Bonneville Power Administration, as well as technical feedback that contributed to the enhancement of the project.
  • The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board contributed $150,000.
  • The Oregon Water Resources Department provided $600,000 in grant funding.
  • The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided expert advice, design review, and project monitoring.
  • The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest provided environmental analysis, planning, technical feedback, and implementation support.

“I’m grateful for the collaborative effort put forth by everyone involved,” Kyle Carpenter, La Grande’s director of public works, said.  “The wealth of knowledge and experience that we all pooled together, along with our cooperative move-it-forward mentality, were invaluable in the successful completion of this project.”

“The La Grande Municipal Watershed provides some of the best drinking water in the world, straight from our National Forest,” Lee Mannor, water superintendent for the city of La Grande, said.  “Now we also provide some of the best native fish habitat in the world.  That is something we can all be proud of when we turn on the tap.”

“The Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project was a special one for our team,” Brett Moore, P.E., with Anderson Perry & Associates, Inc., said  “The City of La Grande asked us to help them solve a unique engineering design problem, which is always rewarding.  This project also gave us a chance to be part of something much bigger right here in our own backyard.”

“This is a testament to nature’s resilience,” Jesse Steele, interim director of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed, said.  “I’m looking forward to more success stories as we continue to connect and restore habitat in the Grande Ronde Basin.”

“After more than 100 years away, migratory steelhead now have access to over 14 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat above the Beaver Creek Dam, and they are moving back in,” Tim Bailey, a fisheries biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said.  “Finding those first four redds was an important milestone, and I expect we will find even more in the future.”

“It really made my summer when I heard that steelhead were once again spawning in upper Beaver Creek,” Bill Gamble, district ranger for the La Grande District, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, said.  “There is a lot of credit to go around. We in the Forest Service were just privileged to work with so many great partners over the years to help make the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project a reality. This is another win for our local restoration economy – where habitat restoration projects are driving more investments and jobs while improving everyone’s access to natural resources.”

An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, in the foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage.
An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage. Courtesy photo by Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

For more information, please see the article, “Reconnecting the Habitat Dots,” published in Ripples in the Grande Ronde and the La Grande Observer in the summer of 2017.


Source information: Wallowa Whitman National Forest (press release).

August is Fire Hire season for Forest Service in WA, OR

Images of an aircraft dropping fire retardant, a fire truck and crew, fire personnel in nomex and protective gear reviewing a map in the field, a firefighter spraying water on a fire from a hose, a firefighter hand crew, and a firefighter lighting dry grass using a drip torch. Text: 2019 Fire Hire, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region.

PORTLAND, Ore. (July 31, 2019) — The annual “fire hire” hiring event for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region opens Aug. 1, 2019.

The Forest Service is looking for committed, hardworking, highly-skilled employees to support wildfire suppression, fuels reduction and other fire management work on 17 National Forests in Oregon and Washington.

The fire and aviation program features rewarding opportunities for candidates with seasonal wildland firefighting experience to pursue challenging, full-time positions with the agency.

The agency uses the centralized, annual “fire hire” process for hiring most positions in the region’s permanent fire management workforce.

Specialized opportunities being offered include dispatch, engine crew positions, fuels technicians, hand crew members, helitack crew members, hotshot crew remembers, smokejumpers, and fire prevention and education specialists.

Opportunities will be posted at www.usajobs.gov, with an application window of Aug. 1-28, 2019.

Vacancy announcements for seasonal opportunities during the summer, 2020 wildland fire season – which includes the majority of the region’s entry-level and trainee fire management opportunities – will be posted to USAJobs in September, 2019.

“Fire Hire” timeline:

  • Aug. 1, 2019: Vacancy announcements are posted to USAJobs.
  • Aug. 28, 2019: Application deadline, 7:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (10:59 p.m. EDT, or 11:59 EST). Applicants are encouraged to read all vacancy announcements carefully prior to applying, and ensure all required documents are included with their submission. Applicants are also encouraged to apply for multiple locations (where they would accept a position if offered), even if positions for certain locations are not listed as vacant, as vacancies may occur during the hiring process and could be filled during Selection Week.
  • Oct. 15-31, 2019: Supervisory Reference Checks, and Subject Matter Expert evaluations occur during these weeks. Please ensure your references are notified of this and they are available at the email address (preferred) or phone number provided on your application.
  • Nov. 4-22, 2019: Selection week. Representatives from each forest will make recommendations for hiring, and candidates selected will be notified by a Forest Service representative by phone. Those not selected should check their USAJobs account for status updates. During the selection week candidates will be given 4 hours to respond to voicemails or emails from the recommending officials. It is highly encouraged candidates plan be available via phone during this time!
  • March, 2020: Earliest possible effective date for new hires.

Note: Where Interagency Fire Program Management (IFPM) and Forest Service – Fire Program Management (FS-FPM) qualifications are required, these qualifications must be met prior to the closing date on the vacancy being applied for. Applicants with relevant fire certifications or experience must provide a current copy of their IQCS Master Record, where indicated in the announcement, to meet qualification requirements for positions with IQCS requirements.

For more information: Visit https://go.usa.gov/xyfx8.

Images of an aircraft dropping fire retardant, a fire truck and crew, fire personnel in nomex and protective gear reviewing a map in the field, a firefighter spraying water on a fire from a hose, a firefighter hand crew, and a firefighter lighting dry grass using a drip torch. Text: 2019 Fire Hire, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region. Apply on www.usajobs.gov August 1-28.
The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s next “Fire Hire” hiring event is Aug. 1-28, 2019 at https://www.usajobs.gov. Applicants are encouraged to apply for current and potential vacancies at all locations they are interested in being considered for, for a variety of permanent, full-time positions supporting fire and aviation management programs on 17 National Forests in Washington and Oregon, with projected start dates in spring-summer, 2020.

Smokey Bear 75th birthday celebrations Aug. 9-10

Smokey Bear waves from a wildland fire truck, accompanied by a uniformed Forest Service employee.

(Updated Aug. 5, 2019). Smokey Bear turns 75 years old this year, and the U.S. Forest Service’s fire prevention is still hard at work, promoting wildland fire safety and prevention of human-caused fires on public lands, including our National Forests. Smokey stars in television, radio and internet public service announcements. His image is found in coloring books, and on stickers. Each year, he appears at dozens of community events across the Pacific Northwest.

Smokey’s story begins Aug. 9, 1944, when the the Ad Council created a fictional bear to serve as the mascot for the U.S. Forest Service’s fire prevention efforts. But when a bear cub was saved by firefighters during a wildfire in New Mexico in 1950, news of this real-life “Smokey’s” rescue spread quickly across the nation and provided a real-life icon for promoting fire safety and wildfire prevention. 

He received so many gifts of honey and an outpouring of mail that he was assigned his own zip code!

Celebrate with Smokey at events around the country this summer, including these upcoming Washington and Oregon -based events:

Friday, Aug. 9:

  • Siuslaw National Forest hosts Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday Party from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Cape Perpetua Visitor’s Center in Yachats, Ore. Enjoy birthday cake, learn about fire ecology on the Siuslaw National Forest, and with Smokey a “happy birthday” in person, at the party!
  • Colville National Forest will celebrate Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday with cake from 10 a.m – noon at the Forest Headquarters (765 S. Main St.; Colville, WA). Smokey will be available for photos at this location from 10 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
  • Colville National Forest will also celebrate Smokey’s birthday with the community by hosting games and giveaways from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Chewelah Farmers Market (Chewelah City Park: N Park Street (U.S. 395) and E. Lincoln Ave.; Chewelah, WA). Forest staff will be there to answer questions, offer forest and fire prevention information, and host activities and games. Smokey will be available for photos from noon-12:30 p.m., weather permitting.
  • Tillamook Forest Center celebrates Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday, 1:30-3:30 p.m. with cake, prizes, songs, and games. Don’t leave these birthday candles unattended—only YOU can help Smokey celebrate in style! Programs are free, and open to Smokey Bear fans of all ages. For more details, call (503) 815-6800, visit the forest’s website, or visit the forest’s on Facebook

Saturday, Aug. 10

  • Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Friends of Fort Vancouver, and the National Park Service will celebrate Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center (1501 E. Evergreen Blvd.; Vancouver, WA), 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Children and their families are invited to this free event for fun activities, historical Smokey Bear videos, wildfire prevention safety information, and to Smokey Bear a happy birthday. Children in attendance will have the opportunity to become USDA Forest Service Junior Rangers. Come enjoy a piece of birthday cake with Smokey to celebrate this milestone birthday! Smokey Bear-themed items and national forest recreation maps will be available for purchase in the Friends of Fort Vancouver bookstore.
  • The Discovery Museum at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Ore. celebrates Smokey’s 75th birthday during August’s “TREEMendous” Second Saturday event. The museum will have birthday treats, Smokey-related crafts, and an in-person visit from Smokey Bear himself! The museum is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults ($7 for seniors), and $5 for children/teens ages 18 and under (children under 3 are admitted free of charge).
  • Celebrate Smokey’s 75th birthday with activities for all ages, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at the Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center (15212 State Hwy. 97A; Entiat, WA). Climb the stairs of an historic fire lookout to hear a former lookout describe his experiences and responsibilities, play games, interact with real wildland firefighters and learn about their fire gear, tools and engines, hug Smokey, and sing happy birthday to him as you enjoy a slice of cake!

For more information about Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday, educational activities, and special celebration events planned across the U.S., visit: https://www.smokeybear75th.org.

Illustration of Smokey Bear and a sign reading "Years preventing wildfires: 75. Happy Birthday, Smokey!"
Smokey Bear celebrates his 75th birthday Aug. 9, 2019! Learn more at https://www.smokeybear75th.org.

Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (press release), Siuslaw National Forest (press release), Smokey’s 75th Birthday website (https://www.smokeybear75th.org).

Organizational camps open doors to the outdoors

A woman seated in a small boat raises her arms in the breeze, while a second woman paddles the boat across a forest lake.

Where can you try zip-lining, horseback riding, camping, swimming, hiking, or other outdoors activities you’ve never tried before, with a group of your new best friends – and an assist from someone with more experienced to guide you?

The answer could be one of the organizational camps that operate on many of the seventeen National Forests in the Pacific Northwest.

Organizational camps are located on public lands and managed by third-party organizations under the authority of a Special Use permit granted by the U.S. Forest Service.

USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region video by Chris Bentley, Office of Communications & Community Engagement

There are 44 such camps operating on national forests in Oregon and Washington, each offering unique opportunities for people who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the beauty and adventure opportunities available on forest lands.

“Permittees are able to offer a wide variety of experiences to the public,” Shawnee Hinman, regional special uses program manager for the Forest Service, said.

Because the agency’s work involves balancing multiple uses of the forest, many of the most-developed recreation sites on National Forest System lands are operated by permittees.

“They’re vital partners… often providing the unique level of services, with more staff, more amenities, more flexibility, and more infrastructure than what the Forest Service can normally provide,” Hinman said.

A camper flies above the forest floor while strapped into a climbing harness.
A camper at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp, an organizational camp at Mt. Hood, Oregon, flies over the forest floor while strapped into a climbing harness. Courtesy photo by Justin Tucker, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp staff (used with permission).

The extra amenities and services provided at some organizational camps are especially important because they provide opportunities for members of the public who need more support than the minimalist facilities offered at many Forest Service operated campgrounds and recreation areas.

For example, people with different ability levels, such as special medical needs or mobility challenges, that can limit their activities on forest lands could find better opportunities to enjoy their public lands – while sustaining the support or assistance they need to do so safely – at an organizational camp.

“These are organizations whose sole purpose is enriching the lives of others: spiritually, physically, or emotionally,” Nathan Fletcher, special use manager for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. “The main idea here is that these groups are improving lives through outdoor experiences.”

A camper gives the "V" for victory symbol while cycling with a staff member.
Campers at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp enjoy the outdoors in a safe, supportive environment with a one-to-one ratio of staff to campers. Many of the staff are local college students, who earn credit for their participation – creating strong and lasting connections between the camp and local community. Courtesy photo by Justin Tucker, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp staff (used with permission).

The Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp, located on the Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon, introduces people with disabilities to the great outdoors via day outings and overnight camps. It offers a 1:1 ratio of campers to counsellors, offering eight weeks of summer camps and two winter retreats each year.

“We provide one of the only fully-accessible camps on Forest Service lands in the nation,” Matt Grager, the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp’s communications director, said. “The real magic of the camp is that if you were to pull up to our 22 acre camp, it would look like a regular summer camp straight from the movies—camping, hiking, canoeing, swimming, horseback riding, even whitewater rafting and a ropes course… you name it we got it – the campers get to do all of the traditional summer camp activities just geared around the needs of people with disabilities.”

A camper and a staff member smile and embrace while posing for a photo at camp.
A camper and staff member lean in for a hug while posing for a camera. Many campers return year after year to attend the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp, which provides physical fitness and social opportunities for people with intellectual and physical disabilities at its organizational camp on the Mt Hood National Forest in Oregon. Courtesy photo by Justin Tucker, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp staff (used with permission).

The Boy Scouts of America operate numerous camps on national forests in the Pacific Northwest, providing day, overnight, and week-long summer camps for youth from around Washington, Oregon, and the United States.

These camps expand recreation access to the outdoors for young people from all across the country, including urban, suburban, and rural areas, offering activities ranging from archery lessons to week-long trail riding trips on horseback.

Organizational camps can create deeply rooted relationships and a connection to the land that reach from the forest to the Forest Service, and back into the community.

More than 500 people participate in programs at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis camp each year, and many return year after year. In fact, some of the organizations campers have been returning each summer for 20 to 30 years, Grager said.

Most of the camp’s counselors come from Portland State University (PSU) where students earn 6 credits for their participation as a capstone project for the college’s degree programs. Approximately 4500 college students have served as Kiwanis camp counsellors since the partnership was first established in the 1970’s.

“The experience the counselors have is as transformative for them as it is for the participants,” Grager said.

The Forest Service doesn’t have the capacity to provide the kind of individual attention these organizations can provide for their visitors, Hinman said – but considers organizational camps to be important partners in creating those opportunities for a diverse group of campers.

“We so appreciate the many organizations who invest so much into helping so many people get outdoors who otherwise probably wouldn’t get the chance,” he said.

More information:

To find out what organizational camps operate in your area, contact your local forest supervisor’s or district rangers’ office. Organizational camps may also be listed on the forest’s website, under Recreation or Special Use program offerings.

For the 2019 season, the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp will host a barbecue to celebrate the last night of each weekly camp. Skits are performed by campers and counselors. The community is invited, and food and music will be provided. Barbecues are scheduled every Thursday, through Aug. 18. A $10 donation is suggested.

Campers and staff paddle a canoe across a lake. Mt. Hood is visible beyond the far shore..
Campers and staff paddle a canoe across a reflection of Mt. Hood at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp in Oregon. Courtesy photo by Justin Tucker, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp staff (used with permission).

Chris Bentley is the Website and Social Media Manager for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement

Passport in Time: Volunteers sought for homestead restoration on Colville NF

Cedar shake shingled roofs, log outbuildings and log-rail fences are hallmarks of the Uptagrafft Homestead, a century-old homestead and interpretive site on Colville National Forest, Washington.

Step back in time, hone your homesteading and log-construction skills, and join Forest Service employees for skills-building and historical preservation work on a century-old historic homestead on the Colville National Forest!

Uptagrafft Homestead is believed to be built in 1919, and was one of many homesteads in the area filed under the Homestead Act. Today, the homestead is a forest interpretive site, demonstrating the typical layout of homesteads that were once common in the area, but which have become increasingly rare.

The site has been the subject of several restoration efforts, beginning for the American Bicentennial in 1976, and its current condition is a testament to the quality work of the volunteers who have been involved.

This season, volunteers will assist in general maintenance on the site, including reconstruction of a root cellar (including archaeological excavation of the root cellar floor); splitting cedar shakes and using cedar shakes to repair shingled roofs; felling, notching, skinning, and installing logs, replacing missing or damaged shutters and associated hardware, and installing an interpretive sign. Project work is scheduled to take place Aug. 19-23, 2019.

Help the Forest Service continue to preserve, maintain, and improve the homestead so visitors can continue to experience a glimpse into early pioneer life!

To volunteer, you must be able to commit a minimum of two days to the project. Volunteers will work with the project manager on a small team of up to eight participants, and must be physically capable of lifting/bending/kneeling/standing/stooping for extended periods of up to eight hours each day, in a variety of weather conditions. Volunteers must be at least 12 years old (applicants under age 18 must apply with and be accompanied by a participating parent or guardian). Previous carpentry, roofing, construction, general maintenance, and/or historic building restoration experience helpful, but not required.

Volunteers may camp at the homestead or at nearby OHV campground, located approximately 10 miles from Usk, Wash.; the camp will have a toilet, and potable water will be provided. Volunteers are responsible for their own lodging, camping equipment and meals; transportation to and from Uptagrafft and designated meeting area can be provided by Forest Service (the access road is in rough condition, a high-clearance vehicle is recommended for passage).

Your participation can help preserve this piece of history for future generations to enjoy.

For more information, visit: http://www.passportintime.com/uptagrafft-homestead-restoration-2019.html or contact Stuart Chilvers, project supervisor, at (509) 775-7430 or stuart.chilvers@usda.gov.


Passport in Time (PIT) is a nationwide volunteer cultural heritage resources program sponsored by the USDA Forest Service and managed with assistance of many partners, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), state parks agencies, and HistoriCorps. PIT volunteers work with professional archaeologists and historians on public lands throughout the U.S. on such diverse activities as archaeological survey and excavation, rock art restoration, archival research, historic structure restoration, oral history gathering, and analysis and curation of artifacts. The professional staff of archaeologists, historians, and preservation specialists serve as hosts, guides, and co-workers for volunteers working on various archaeology, research and restoration projects.

Field Notes: Helping new climbers reach new heights

Jonathan Perez, Crew Leader with Portland Parks & Recreation Youth Conservation Crews, climbs French's Dome on Mt. Hood National Forest during a USDA Forest Service -hosted climbing clinic for a Portland Parks and Recreation Youth Conservation Corps crew and PDX Climbers of Color. USDA Forest Service photo by Jay Horita.

Mathilda Bertils is an international fellow working in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station. In this “Field Note,” she shares an experience introducing young people from urban Portland, Oregon to the outdoors as part of a climbing clinic on Mt. Hood National Forest.

“As an international fellow with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, I get to accompany my co-workers on public outreach activities. These activities are opportunities to communicate research, show the wonders of nature, and have some fun in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

“Last month, that meant accompanying USDA Forest Service employees Jay Horita, Kira McConnell, Rachel LaMedica, and Nate Buch to French’s Dome on the Mt. Hood National Forest to introduce young people from under-served communities to the forest, and the outdoors recreation and even career opportunities available in the outdoors and land management fields.

“At French’s Dome, we met up with several different organizations including members of the Portland Parks and Recreation’s Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew, and an organization called PDX Climbers of Color.

“YCC creates job opportunities for high school students between the ages of 14 and 18 in and around Portland, Ore. The organization focuses on summer jobs for a diverse population of teens to work outdoors and explore the environmental sciences.

“PDX Climbers of Color is an organization that welcomes everyone, acknowledging that not everyone has equal access to climbing opportunities and trying to create those opportunities for those who otherwise might not have them.

A forest service employee and a Youth Conservation Corps member install a fence post along a forested trail.
Youth Conservation Corps members work with Forest Service personnel to install new fencing on Mt. Hood National Forest trails. USDA Forest Service photo by Mathilda Bertils (international fellow, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station).

“Nate Buch worked with the YCC group during the first half of the day. The participants were divided into three groups; one worked on restoring the fences on the steep side of the trail, and another group worked on blocking ‘social trails’ (trails created outside the managed trails system) around the dome. The third group used loppers to trim the plants and branches crossing the trails.

“Lunch was homemade, provided by a member of Climbers of Color, and included a Venezuelan dish, the empanada, made with locally-sourced ingredients.

“After lunch, the Climbers of Color were in charge. They set up some climbing routes for us on the wall of French’s Dome.

Forest Service employees and Youth Conservation Corps members pose cliffside during a climbing clinic.
Forest Service employees and Youth Conservation Corps members pose cliffside during a climbing clinic. USDA Forest Service photo by Mathilda Bertils (international fellow, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station).

“It was an adrenaline rush and we got to test our fear of heights and our ability to trust the person on the other end of the climbing rope!

“At the end of the day participants received books regarding outdoor equity in the Pacific Northwest.

“The Forest Service supports opportunities like these because exposing young people to the outdoors, and specifically opportunities to work outdoors, may open up job opportunities that they would not have thought of for themselves.

“For more information about PDX Climbers of Color and climbing meetup opportunities, visit https://www.facebook.com/pdxclimbersofcolor/.”

Jonathan Perez, Crew Leader with Portland Parks & Recreation Youth Conservation Crews, climbs French's Dome on Mt. Hood National Forest during a USDA Forest Service -hosted climbing clinic for a Portland Parks and Recreation Youth Conservation Corps crew and PDX Climbers of Color. USDA Forest Service photo by Jay Horita.
Jonathan Perez, Crew Leader with Portland Parks & Recreation Youth Conservation Crews, climbs French’s Dome on Mt. Hood National Forest during a USDA Forest Service -hosted climbing clinic for a Portland Parks and Recreation Youth Conservation Corps crew and PDX Climbers of Color. USDA Forest Service photo by Jay Horita.
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